If We Can Do It, So Can You

There’s been lots of doom and gloom in the UK press this week about the fact that our summer is over before its even begun! So there’s nothing like reading about someone else’s amazing trip to start you day-dreaming about your own adventure…

Today’s If We Can Do It interviewee has asked to remain anonymous but their trip is sure to make any sports fans massively jealous!

1. Why did you decide to take your grown up gap year? Was it a difficult decision to make?

I was living in London, working in the medical industry, when after work one day I discovered a patient had left a book in the waiting room. It was the “Wrong Way Home” by Peter Moore. I tidied it up, put it with the newspapers, and finished my day.

A few days later we had a cancellation, and so I decided to read the book. It’s a tale of Peter who goes from London to Sydney the hard way, overland where possible. I thought: ‘I wish I could do that’.

I had been finding the grey skies of London permeating my life. All people seemed to be talking about was the economy, money, how terrible their jobs were; it felt like a damp, gloomy prison. I found that I was bored, not just ‘in this moment’ bored but long-term bored.

Over a few beers a friend and I talked about it and began planning a getaway. This happened over a period of three months but when it came to paying for the flights he backed out and said he couldn’t afford it. I was left with two options: either do the same as him or say ‘I don’t care, I’m going anyway’. I chose option two.

2. What were other people’s reactions when you told them your plans?

Actually everyone was very supportive, especially as initially I had only intended to go for six months. When I told people lots of them said they were jealous and that they wanted to come. I invited them and in the end one friend came with me, as she also wanted a change and to get out of London for the winter.

Obviously my family was worried about how I would provide for myself but actually they were happy for me to go, and for that I am truly grateful.

3. How long did your trip take and where did you go?

Initially I went to the Rockies in Canada. It was 2009 and Vancouver was about to host the Winter Olympics, so while there with my Canadian Working Holiday Visa I found a job working for the Olympics in Whistler.

My boss there was a Kiwi and we hit it off straight away and after three months of working for him, he invited me to go over to New Zealand in 2011 to work during the Rugby World Cup.

To cut a long story short, I took him up on his offer and rather than getting a direct flight to Auckland I took inspiration from Peter Moore and went overland through Central and South America to Chile and flew from there.

The Rugby World Cup was amazing – New Zealand at its best. I then heard that a friend of mine who I had worked with in Canada was working for the London Olympics. I sent an email and within two days I had a Skype interview and then a contract to work for the 2012 London Olympics.

Again, I travelled back to London, stopping off as much as possible. After the insanity that was the London Olympics I went back to South America for six months to explore some more and then headed to Australia, which is where I am now.

4. How did you finance your grown up gap year?

When I left London the first time I had some savings, nothing life changing, but enough for my six-month trip. However before I went to Canada I applied for a Working Holiday Visa. While living in Whistler I spent five times what I earned working there, had it not been for the Olympics then I would have had to come home early.

After the Olympics with a little money in my back pocket I headed south, luckily the Canadian dollar exchange was in my favour and I had enough to get me to New Zealand – just. However in Peru I had my luggage stolen so I boarded my flight to New Zealand with only a passport and a full credit card. Had it not been for the generosity of friends I would have been living on the street.

With the money I earned from the Rugby World Cup I had enough to get me to London, again, by the skin of my teeth, and then the money from London got me through South America and to Australia.

5. Did you go alone or with family/friends?

Initially friends, which was for the first six months of the Canada trip. Then when they went home I met some amazing people in Canada and we all ended up living together. After that I was on my own.

Actually, there are so many people out there who are in a similar position to you, that you are rarely ever alone.

6. What is your travel style? (Ie. Budget hostels/Mid-range hotels/Luxury travel – less is more, travelling slowly/pack in as much as possible)

I started off using my savings to stay in some very nice hotels in Canada, but after a little while I realised that I wasn’t meeting anyone, I wasn’t creating a life for myself, I was just existing. To meet some new people I started staying in youth hostels and backpackers.

Don’t get me wrong, I do love to have mints on my pillow every so often, but to meet people, get the latest information on places to see and things to do, I would say you can’t beat backpackers.

7. Do you go for tours or do it alone?

I do both. I am reluctant to go on tours generally, however when you are visiting a very touristy place I would recommend going on a tour just because you will get so much more information than you would get from the small leaflet at the entrance.

However, for anything not so touristy I would say go and explore on your own as you never know who you will meet. I ended up meeting a family in Peru who took me in for three weeks over Christmas, all because I was lost.

8. What is the best thing about taking a grown up gap year?

Perspective, as Mark Twain said: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” When you have seen the poverty of El Salvador or the basic living of people in Vanuatu, you find it very hard to get really angry when a train is late or if someone steals your shampoo.

The way I see it now is that I am living my dreams. Why wait until the end of your life to do your bucket list? I’m doing my bucket list now and there is no greater satisfaction than that.

9. And are there any downsides?

Of course, the life of a traveller is not completely carefree. Money is an issue, but if you are not afraid to work then you can always find ways of providing yourself with the bare essentials. The generosity of strangers is astounding at times.

The biggest downside I would say is at times I do get lonely; Christmas without my family is especially hard. When you are looking at something phenomenally beautiful or emotional it would be nice to share it with someone, but in reality these feelings are dwarfed by the excitement, wonder and sheer astonishment of the beauty of the world.

10. What advice would you give to anyone thinking of setting off on their own grown up gap year?

I wouldn’t tell them anything I would just ask: ‘What are your dreams? Why are you waiting to live them?’

If you are on a grown up gap year or are planning to take one and would like to be interviewed, I’d love to hear from you!